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Exile Poems

Tuhin Das

Translated from the Bengali by Arunava Sinha


I am no longer obsessed with collecting works of art.

The passion for building my library has deserted me.

The canvases I have left behind, locked away in trunks

Twelve thousand miles away, must be covered in dust now.

The desire to learn origami has died.

Even the important documents I discarded

Have turned useless away from my sight.

My homeland hasn't changed much, my life has.

My existence is now manuscripts in two suitcases.

Between my meagre clothes and all my papers,

They fit snugly.

My life has shown

A man doesn't really need too many things

Life goes on even without anyone to say goodbye to.


A memory like a dusty old photograph.

Today I discovered

I have no pictures of my mother or sister.

No one takes care of the statues in my country,

The extremists want to break them all.

Many of the roads have had their names changed.

A man who sold peanuts used to tell us

The most mysterious tales in town. He is dead.

My sister had a daughter last month,

I've lost the chance to see her lovely childhood,

The temples are becoming shrouded in a mist –

Sometimes they're victims to sudden attacks.

There's been nothing new in Bangla poetry.


The police have set fire to the homes of indigenous people.

Will I ever be able to return to my homeland

Where the army has burnt the tribal student leader

Romel Chakma's corpse? It's not in the newspapers.

The tribal woman leader Kalpana Chakma,

Abducted twenty years ago, will never come home either.


Next to Artisan Bakery in Gulshan,

A girl child is born in a hospital.

Your name could be Freedom or Revolution.

You're lying on the floor of the clinic,

Next door terrorists create another Orlando.

Your father is lying on the floor,

Bullets strike the wall of the clinic,

And your mother trembles as grenades explode,

Your name could be Mukti or Biplob.

In Artisan next door, they slaughter twenty foreigners,

Commandos enter the next day, the weeds of civilisation

Are rooted out, your parents emerge from the hostage situation,

Like you, with the taste of freedom.

There goes the armoured car, roaring

On the street, back where it belongs.

The soldiers’ guns hang lazily on their backs,

Peace is returning to our world.


Notes: Numbered according to the poems

27: In November 2016, Bangladeshi police set fire to the houses of tribal communities, known as Santals.

The Bangladeshi army abuses its power against indigenous people. In April 2017, a young Jumma student leader, Romel Chakma, was killed brutally by the Bangladesh army. Indigenous rights activist Kalpana Chakma were abducted on 12 June, 1996 from her home in the Chattogram Hill Tracts by the members of the Bangladesh Army. She is still missing.

38: “`Day of joy turns into day of grief': Awlad Hossain's wife had just given birth to their third child at Gulshan's Lake View Clinic on July 1, 2016 in the afternoon – hours before gunmen took control of Holey Artisan Bakery, located in the same compound, and took dozens of people hostage. Bangladeshi Army commandoes brought an end to the situation 12 hours later. As many as 20 people were found dead inside. Six attackers were killed.” – The Daily Star, July 3, 2016


Tuhin Das is a poet, activist, political columnist, short story writer, and essayist. He was born and raised in Barishal, Bangladesh. He is the author of eight poetry books in his native language, Bengali. He's also had contemporary poetry criticism articles, short stories, and political columns published in Bangladesh and India. His full-length, unpublished English manuscript Exile Poems focuses on his life as an exiled writer. Das’ work has appeared in The Logue Project and Words Without Borders.

Arunava Sinha is a noted Indian translator of Bengali literature. He was born and raised in Kolkata. He won the Crossword translation award, the Muse India translation award. He has also been shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Sinha is currently based in New Delhi.


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